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Fred Kaplan Education. (2013) 'The Insurgents David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War.'

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Iraq 26, Us 11, United States 10, Petraeus 7, Leavenworth 7, Mali 5, Cia 4, India 4, Vietnam 4, Washington 4, Kilcullen 3, Hagel 3, Soviet Union 3, Israel 3, U.s. 3, Baghdad 3, Taliban 2, El Salvador 2, Nagl 2, David Petraeus 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Fred Kaplan  Education.  (2013) 'The Insurgents David  
   Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War.'  

    February 17, 2013
    8:30 - 9:45am EST  

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are. and the more we can become an urban society, the more we can do to solve these problems that are at the center of our challenges as a nation. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> fred kaplan talks about how general david petraeus and his advisers transformed the u.s. military to fight future small wars against insurgents and terrorists. watch him for the next hour here on booktv. ..
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mr. kaplan spoke at the louisville free public library in kentucky. >> i admire those who do but that's not what i do. what i'm interested in is policies and ideas. where do these ideas come from? i mean, they don't just drop from the sky. usually they are not things that just automatically appeal to everybody as a matter of logic. where do the ideas come from? who are the people who advanced the idea? there's a lot of competing ideas. how did this particular set of ideas get translated into policy with the resistance? how is the resistance overcome? it usually isn't just one person, it's a community. how did this community form? what was the basis of it? that's what history is all about. it's a story. that's what these stories are about, it's about the interplay between personalities and politics, and policy.
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an accident, going to disappear so that's what i'm interested in. and why do i, i'm interested in how this applies, war, i mean, in all the arenas of human conduct, this is the most high profile thing areas. i mean, it's the difference between life and death for thousands of people. it's the difference between national victory, national defeat. it is the highest level, in some ways the most brutish and in some ways the most abstract level of humans. so the stakes are very high. this isn't just, you know, talking about ideas that are discussed in universities and end up in some academic journals. this affects the most high profile level of human conduct. so that's what i'm interested in this, and that's what this book is about.
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what also interest into this particular story is that it covers a pivotal era in american history and world history, when everything is changing. the cold war is over, a new world is coming into focus, and it's still not really in focus. we are still living in this world. what is the nature of power, what is the nature of america's place in it, and how does this group of people that i'm interested in following, how do they affect what's going on? it's about a generational shift. it begins, most of this book takes place during the iraq and afghanistan wars as a backdrop, but it begins with first iraq war, the gulf war of 1990-91. and i come into this major, young lieutenant named john who was three years at west point. he's leading a tank platoon in iraq. he just got at west point as i said, one of the top students.
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he chose to go into the armor corps because the big war that the army is preparing for was going to be united states versus soviet union on the plains of your. he even studied german at west point. he got fluent in the link which because that's where he would be spending most of his career. so on the plane to iraq. you might remember, we did a months worth of bombing, and then a mere four days of ground operation, and just completely destroyed the iraqi military. so there he is, looking around at the end of this, he's realizing we just destroyed the fourth, the world's fourth largest tank army in four days. a few months before this, the soviet union went up in smoke. the cold war is over. and he's thinking what am i going to be doing the rest of my life? what is the army going to be doing the rest of my life?
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he came with the idea that nobody is really ever going to challenge the united states again in a head-on contest of strength. it's going to be other kinds of conflicts on the site. maybe insurgency, terrorist attacks. that sort of thing. outcompeted know anything about this, because he never learned in west point. they didn't teach it in west point. they didn't teach it in the college. so we went off to oxford and got a graduate degree and would book called the learning to sleep with a knife which came from lawrence of arabia's description of fighting a guerrilla war. and he compared the bridge experiments, experience in malaya which succeeded, and the american experience in vietnam which didn't. and he tried to get what was the difference. and the difference was that the americans fought in vietnam as historiauthority conventional b, and the british font in malaya
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as it was a new kind of war and they adopted. he would discover later there's more to it but that was inside. he goes back to west point, and a lot of his colleagues, they are fighting these new kinds of wars that are already emerging. they have been fighting in el salvador or somalia or haiti or bosnia, and they realized that their army has no clue of these kinds of conflict. this is a little hard to believe but it's true, at the time the army defined war strictly as major combat operations, tuna, tank battles, against comparably mighty foes. the other kinds of conflicts, terrorists, insurgents, that sort of thing, they called in capital letters military operations other than war. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at the time once said real men don't do moota.
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the real men, they have done moota. it felt like war to them. didn't feel like, they call them the other than war wars of the '90s. they were wars. in the meantime, the main character of the book, david petraeus, who is one of the few people in the book that most people have heard of, and to nagl would later become a prot├ęge of petraeus come a graduate from west point in 1974. one of his first exercises, one of his first assignments was to go join up with airborne battalion in france and italy. while he was there he came across some books that are about counterinsurgency warfare. and again, petraeus hadn't studied any of this in west point either. but he's reading these books, especially a book by a retired french colonel named david kula
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called counterinsurgency work. he comes across, the idea that he had never run across anything he had read. for example, that these kind of wars are only 20% military. they are 80% political. there are battles for the hearts and minds of the people. at in these kind of wars, the mimeograph machine was sometimes be as useful as a machine can. that cement could sometimes be as useful as a mortar sure. this is a revelation to him. now, several years later he goes down to el salvador. is a special assistant to the commander of southern command and he sees this kind of work going on in el salvador, nicaragua, colombia and peru. he later goes to bosnia where this isn't really quite well-known, he was heading up a clandestine counterterrorist unit in bosnia. then after that he goes to iraq.
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the iraq war. the iraq war will about the sword in 2003. he's part of the invasion force. 'tis commander of the 101st airborne division. goes up to baghdad and then he's assigned to go up in northern iraq and occupy there. again, this is one of these things that it's hard to believe but united states had no plan for what to do after saddam hussein fell. in fact they deliver had no plan but it wasn't an oversight. it was delivered. because the plane was overthrown saddam, get out of there. just like we overthrew the taliban in afghanistan and then got out of there. of course, afghanistan fell apart and we had go back. anorak it's falling apart very, very quickly. we are facing an insurgency, we don't know what to do. like nagl, all the officers who were there hadn't been trained
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to fight this sort of war. they do know what to do so they did what they usually do. which was to bang down doors and arrest and kill people, which is anybody who would read nagl what is known is counterproductive because you wind up killing the wrong people. you inflame, you this off their brother and their cousins and they become insurgents, too. so the insurgents is going. meanwhile, petraeus upend mosul besides to put into effect the ideas of these books he's been reading. so he and his guys, they start setting up elections for the new district council. they set up the elections. they bring in fuel trucks from turkey. they read open the university. they get to mutation systems going. they get some iraqis to open up newspapers. he opens up the border to syria along northern iraq. it is all this on his own.
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he's not doing it with the coordination of anybody come in washington or baghdad or any place. and it works, for a while. then he is rotated out, a brigade comes in, half the size of his division led by some who spent the previous four months bashing down doors and also part until someone else comes along. but here's where the story starts interesting. is with all meet each other and i'm can -- condensing a lot of things but i'm giving you the basic. petraeus is set off to fort leavenworth. a lot of people in the army didn't really like petraeus. they thought -- they don't like officers who are too bookish or who stood up too much, and petraeus was free much guilt on both accounts. so he was sent to fort leavenworth, kansas, and a lot of people are thinking oh, that's great. sending him out to past year. but h it gets to fort leavenworh and he realizes something.
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he realizes that this is actually the intellectual center of the army, the right doctrine. they organize a national training centers. and they drew a loop through all this. and he said to himself as learning all this, of what kind of powers people potential has, he says holy cow, and he talks about that. he says holy cow, jeepers, super. he says holy cow, they put an insurgent in charge of the engine of change. he'd reduced himself to insurgent. now, meanwhile, meanwhile, there's a lot of meanwhile,'s in this book. meanwhile, there is a professor at the school of advanced international studies in washington, d.c., eliot cohen, an eminent military historian, also a leading neoconservative. he was one of the people who
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signed the petitions that we have to invade iraq and overthrow saddam by force. he is also a member of the defense policy advisory board. and so he goes over to iraq to take a look at what's going on. he's the only member o of the sport the goes there and he sees that it's a disaster. there's this insurgency mounting in the windows what to do about it. now, he comes back feeling really upset because again, feeling kind of a twinge of guilt because he was advising this administration to he had advocated for this war. his son, whom i cannot graduate from harvard, had recently joined the army and was going to be sent to iraq. he was going to be sent into this mess that he sort of help to create. so he thinks, well, he has to do something about it. so he sets up a seminar in vermont, and he invites, goes through his rolodex and military journals. he invites everybody that he can find who has written anything
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remotely interesting about the subject of counterinsurgency. and he comes up with about 30 people, and all a symbol for five days to discuss these things. of the pivotal thing about this thing is not so much what they discussed, as that payment. most of these people didn't know each other before. they di didn't know of one another's existence. they thought they were out on a limb, you know, on a daring when writing stuff that nobody's going to read a was wakens what was going on. a lot of these people were junior officers, some of them were mid-level officials or think tank types. and they realized they were a community and they might be able to do something if they worked together. so they come away from vermont with a great sense of mission. nagl was one of these people. meanwhile, petraeus singh and leavenworth, he knows a lot of these people who were at this conference, some of them were
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his students or his colleagues, people have been under his command. and he decides can one thing is going to do and leavenworth is right a new counterinsurgency field manual for the army. there hadn't been one for 20 years. and he draws on this group from the basin harbor conference to be his inner circle, to be his aide, to the people who helped him write this conference. in other words, outside the usual channels within the army. so for things happen at the end of 2006. one, this midterm election, democrats when, bush fires rumsfeld, hires robert gates. two, it's an as petraeus we going back to iraq as the top commander. number three, bush announces that he is ordering a surge of troops in iraq.
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sending another 20,000 troops. and number four, that he is changing strategy essentially a counterinsurgency strategy. he calls it clear, hold, and build, an old phrase became of some these books. the idea being that you clear in area of insurgents, then you stay there, you hold it. you don't just turn over to the iraqis right away. they are not yet capable of holding a. you stay there any help to build an infrastructure, help the government provide basic services, build trust within a community, help build a secure structure. so these were things did not happen by coincidence. it was all part of this blog. and by the way, when i use the word plot, i generally am not a conspiracy guy. but these people refer to themselves as a plot. they called themselves the cabal, or the west point monkey because a lot of them came out of the social science department of west point, which had a tradition of forming networks among their own graduates.
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so this was very cautious here and for example, all of this happened not by coincidence. for example, petraeus when he was in leavenworth wasn't just sitting in leavenworth. he had a vast network of old colleagues throughout the pentagon bureaucracy. is reaching out to them. he deliberately forms a back channel. he cultivates this woman in the white house named meghan o'sullivan who was president bush's chief adviser on iraq in the national security council. he sees she's waving from the policy, he cultivates her. they're talking on the phone practically every day. now, picture this. this is kind of average. his petraeus, a three-star general in fort leavenworth. is talking on the phone everyday with the senior advisor to the president of united states. she will be asking him, general
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casey who is a four-star general actually commanding troop in iraq if general casey as we only need one more brigade, what do you think with an petraeus would muster these arguments that she could funnel to her seniors on why this really isn't enough. so, you know, when he comes to washington and meets in restaurants -- by the way, this is not, this is strictly professional. can you imagine, this is someone, essentially subverting the chain of command, getting his own views across. he's always kind of been an off the reservation guy, just as he got his own way and doing what was necessary here in leavenworth. he is doing what needs to be done. at the same time, there is a civilian analyst to use to teach history at west point named fred kagan who has written a study advocating a surge at the american enterprise institute. petraeus and his contacts use their connections to get this
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study into the white house, directly to president bush come into the pentagon to the new secretary of defense, to some of the subordinates in iraq who are chasing. so basically by the time petraeus becomes the cop -- the top commander everything is all lined the. it's all lined up so that he can go in and impose the strategy that he wants to impose with the full and proper tour of the united states government, of the army and the president of the united states. this is not a quince events. it's all been very quizzically coordinated. so to get there, and what does he do? there's a few things he does that speak to this whole approach. one thing that was already starting to happen was the anbar awakening. you might remember this was a pivotal moment in the war when the sunni militants in western iraq who have been allied with
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al qaeda and shooting at americans, al qaeda is going several steps too far. they are getting upset with al qaeda. they want to break with al qaeda, and there's a very creative colonel, american girl named sean mcfarland who also came out of this west point gripped by the way, who convinces a lot of the sunnis to switch over to our side and to fight al qaeda. petraeus realizes what's going on and he decides to apply this for throughout the country, throughout sunni tribes and work him and he does this by setting up a program called the sons of iraq, which pays the sunni militants to switch. he pays them out of his commanders discretionary fund. now, discretion from coming set up usually for things like the pacing guide to sweep the sidewalk or to set up a local luxury neighborhood watch.
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he's paying them to basically run the war. at the same time he figures well, he has to be evenhanded. he needs to go after the shia militia in the neighborhood of sadr city. prime minister maliki had told his predecessor stay out of sadr city. because the head of that militia now solder was in some kind of alliance with maliki. petraeus comes in. he just doesn't. a distance this guy into sadr city. does away for any approval. so that's kind of how he operates. within nine months this is actually working. there is a huge decline in sectarian violence. there's a huge decline in casualties off all kinds. but here's where we are coming to the problem to have a problem with the counterinsurgency theory generally.
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petraeus have said all along that what his goal was, the whole idea of this campaign was to create some breathing space. the zone of security so that the iraqi factions, sunni, shia, kurds and others, they can get their act together. they can forge a coherent government without having to worry about getting blown up every 10 minutes. the problem was that maliki, shia leader of iraq had no interest in doing this. you don't interest in setting up an oil revenue sharing plan with the cities. he had no interest in bringing in a lot of these sons of iraq militants into the iraqi army, which had been promised. he had no interest in settling property disputes. so what we see now, although at a much, much lower level than was the case, the continuation of sectarian violence and an
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unstable state. now, afghanistan. afghanistan is where these problems with the theory sort of meet their water. petraeus comes with from iraq, petraeus is a miracle worker. petraeus this, the petraeus that. it is said to come again, unconvincing, but he is sent to afghanistan. the ideas he created miracles and iraq. maybe he could do this in afghanistan, too. and obama at least as an experiment bought onto the idea okay, let's do a surge in afghanistan at least a partial counters urgency strategy. let's see how it works. -- counterinsurgency strategy. the problem is well, remember the book, the book i mentioned which petraeus and others are consulting regularly. it's a very good book. there was one chapter in that book called conditions for a successful insurgency. where he lists specific
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characteristics of a country that might make it just really fertile ground for successful insurgency. they included a very corrupt central government, and largely illiterate rural population, mountainous terrain along the borders. a neighboring state that issues as sanctuary by the insurgents. you just go down the list, it's a description of afghanistan. he even draws a diagram of what the topography of this ideal insurgent territory would look like. you can do an overlay of this diagram with a map of afghanistan. so he knows going in that this really is extremely long odds at this. when he was in iraq, when he was top commander, that was his third tour of dut duty in iraq o cuba and iraq. afghanistan he did know at all, but he's bring in the same entourage. they don't know afghanistan
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either. and, of course, this is, to all of us. we go into a new situation will look at the prison of what we now. he knew iraq. now, he had written, he had his powerpoint slides and on one of them he always put afghanistan is not iraq. and yet i was told by interviews well over 100 people for this, several of them told me that every time a problem came up, he puts it well, in anbar awakening this way. or any kind one can here's how we solve that problem and one time even in a meeting with president carter, the afghan president he is saying well, when this problem happened in baghdad, we didn't like this. and his assistant who is in the room with input work in afghanistan and iraq walking out of them he says you know, it might be a useful intellectual extreme for you to try not to think about iraq at all. and he said, i'm working on it, i'm working on it. but it just never felt together.
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iraq, the situation in iraq, there were ingredients there. it was a fertile ground for counterinsurgency strategy to work, at least in certain areas where he and say, the local tribesmen had common interests. it is the work we have common interests, which leads to kind of the final observation, and it comes from another one of these are insurgency experts which some called c.o.i.n. -- c.o.i.n., counterinsurgency, named david who was an australian colonel who came over to united states and was picked up as a consultant because he seemed to be so smart about these things but and he was responsible for a lot of the ideas and have put the ideas into effect. he wrote some memos that were widely read by junior officers in the field. and in 2008, he's realizing
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commune, he's kind of blowing it. he should be feeling very good about himself, but he'd always thought -- and by the way, a lot of these guys thought invading iraq was a really stupid idea. but once we were there and and insurgents is there we got to fight in his eye you do that. but kilcullen had always thought, look, it's not my job to advise our me policy. that's a political thing. if you don't like it, you should throughout the people. i'm here to try to make the situation as, you know, as good as, you know, i'm trying to minimize the impact. but as an expert i really should advise on the policy. at the time he was a special adviser to secretary of state condoleezza rice. he puts together a counterinsurgency manual for the civilian part of the government, because it was always thought civilians bureaucracy should get involved in this, too.
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except kilcullen decided not to write this for mid-level bureaucrats, but for policymakers. and in a couple places he writes, it is folly, those are the words he chose, it is folly to even begin to undertake a counterinsurgency campaign abroad, unless you have some idea that the country that you are helping is interested somewhat in reform. remember the thing about the 20% military, 80% political? the insight that these guys had but these kinds of wars is that insurgency grew out of a social situation. they appealed to the people because the government is falling short on doing certain things. whether genuinely opportunistically offer an alternative, and what counterinsurgency has to do, not only go after the bad guys, but to co-opt them, to dry up the support for them by showing that the government, i showing up the
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government so it can do its job. kilcullen is saying, the government just isn't going to do the job, they should just stay out of it and he also said policy makers must, policymakers must do a calculation of whether they do see a decline to reform before the going. now, the problem, this manual came out on january 13, 2009, so the new administration is coming in a week later, and nobody reads something from an old administration. in fact, this didn't represent the old administration but it would have done the obama a message well to read this. you might remember, i will end with this one thing and then i will take questions. you might remember the last of 2009, there were 10 meetings between obama and his national security team to figure out what to do in afghanistan.
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and there's a big intramural argument about this. in the end, obama decided okay, i'm going to give you the 40,000 troops you want. actually it was 33,000, plus 7000 from nato. and we will do a counterinsurgency strategy in the south anyway, in the cities in the south. .. >> these kinds of things go on for years. and he was asked by someone afterwards why did you say yes?
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and he said, one, he wasn't looking for advice, he was looking for a take it or leave it. but my view is when you're a general and you're called upon to give military advice to the president, no matter what, whether you think there's a game going on here and he's not really asking for advice, it's your responsibility to give correct military advice. but the second one was a gamble. he thought, well, if i make enough progress, he'll have to go on, he'll have to go deeper. now, obama had said at this meeting, listen, this is all you're going to get. don't think you can back in 18 months and say, mr. president, i think three more brigades and that'll really do the trick. this is it. so no coincidence, comrades, within 18 months almost to the day obama appears and says that he's pulling out all of the surge troops. knost just three or -- not just 3 or 5,000 of them but all of them over the next year because, basically, it hadn't worked.
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now, he had a good situation because he could portray this as a victory. in the meantime, we'd killed osama bin laden, we really had decimated taliban troops in the field. the afghan army really was getting better. but you didn't need the extra 33,000 troops to do all that. so he changed the mission. and, you know, what's happened since is that counterinsurgency has kind of disappeared because of the failure of afghanistan, it's now being abandoned as something that we really shouldn't do, and we're going to, you know, we're reverting back to a new american way of war which involves very small footprints, drones from the sky, very small commando raids, kind of the opposite of counterinsurgency. and on the one hand, well, you know, at least we're not sending 100,000 troops to mali or uganda. but on the other hand, i fear that what this does do is it sets up this illusion we're
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going back to the syndrome of military operations other than war, you know? i'm sure that if somebody asked you are we at war in uganda or are we at war in h -- mali, you'd say, no, nobody's getting killed, there aren't very many people on the ground. but that's the problem with these kinds of things. it creates this kind of antiseptic flavor of war, it deprives us of the view of the mayhem and chaos on the ground. and yet it does suck us into these conflicts. it might be a very good way for handling this, but we should never be fooled into thinking that this isn't war and that war, you know, is a serious thing at least for the people who are subjected to it whether it's a lot of troops or whether it's missiles raining from the sky. so i'm willing to take whatever questions you have. >> i'll start. i'll start with one.
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>> okay. >> where will we next go to war or deeper into mutwah? >> well, you know, we're in quite a few places already. we're assisting the french in mali and by the way, you know, i'm not against some of these things. you know, let's take measuring ali for an -- mali for an example. somebody, one of obama's advisers sort of stupidly told a new york reporter that his policy is to lead from behind, and people made fun of this. but, you know, hey, there's something to it. you know, mali happens, the french have a vital interest in mali. they go in the with 2500 troops, they ask us for help. well, you know, we don't have vital interests in mali, but we're interested in keeping al-qaeda from taking over a big swath of northern africa, so we say, yeah, we'll do some things you're incapable of doing. so we, for example, provide some
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long-range aircraft that can carry weapons and people to the scene much faster than they could do by themselves. we provide drones for surveillance. we did the same kinds of things in libya. we provided unique capabilities. but we let the people with the more vital interests take the lead. one thing that will change, a lot of this -- all of this is being done by the cia. well, most of it. drones in particular except in explicit war theaters like afghanistan or iraq where the military does control them is controlled by the cia. i think one thing that the new secretary of defense -- assuming he's confirmed -- hagel, some of the things he wants to do is to turn this back over to the military so that at least it's not embroiled in secrecy at the very beginning. we don't know anything about it. so at least it will be out many the open a bit which i think is
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a good thing. >> what was the level, if any, of petraeus in the writing of the book, and what is his reaction after being published? >> well, you know, i interviewed about 110 people for this book including petraeus. one thing about petraeus, he has always been very solicitous of reporters, including me, i have to admit. now, he has two motives, and everybody knows it. one is he kind of likes hanging around with reporters. but second, he sees it as what the military would call information operations or, as the french less euphemistically call it, propaganda. in other words, this is a way of getting the word out. you, and, you know, it works. the thing about petraeus i remember, i mean, i can tell you as a reporter there were four-star generals in the years before petraeus, you know, you'd go meet with them, and you'd
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come away thinking, god, what kind of outfit is the army that a guy like this can become four-star general? [laughter] he's just a lunkhead. and then you go talk with petraeus or stanley mcchrystal, and you say, well, this guy's a smart guy. he knows history, he understands strategy, he thinks strategically g you're inclined to think, well, you know, maybe he knows what he's doing here. so you give him a break, and then you get some -- you know, it's the trade-offs that go with sources and the people if washington. so, and, you know, it's this kind of thing, you know what he's doing and you knew what he was doing, but you kind of went with it anyway because it was interesting and useful for both sides. what he thinks of the book? i don't know. when he merges from his exile, somebody should ask him. >> you just mentioned hagel. is he going to get confirmed, or
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is the senate going to block that? >> well, um, i think he's probably going to get confirmed. i mean, i watched a little bit of the hearings today, and, you know, it's a handful -- it's several republicans who don't like him. but let's parse this. i mean, the two things substantively that people, that his critics are bothered by are the fact that he didn't support the surge in iraq, and so what kind of judgment do you have, and the whole business about his saying that the jewish lobby has intimidated many people in congress. okay. the surge in iraq, the fact is almost everybody opposed the surge in iraq. if you want to get after people because they didn't support the surge in iraq, get after hillary clinton. she voted against the surge. get after barack obama, he voted against the surge. get after the entire joint chiefs of staff at the time. they were all against the surge.
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and you can make the case that the surge worked in a tactical way. it still hasn't worked in its ultimate, strategic objectives for reasons that i discussed, and in the meantime, it did cost a lot of money and probably, you know, a thousand extra american soldiers died in the implementation of that surge compared with if you just pulled them out. was that worth it? i don't know. i don't know. we don't know yet. but it's not, it is not a clear-cut fact that the surge worked and we won and that sort of thing. as for the jewish lobby question, i mean, you know, let's get real. the israeli press, i mean, i'm jewish. the israeli press refers to aipac as the jewish lobby. okay, it's a little -- and, you know, aipac has had this thing going for years where anybody who criticizes israel, they say, oh, well, you're anti-semitic. you're really talking about jews, you're not talking about israel. so if somebody says, okay, the
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jewish lobby, then they say, oh, you're anti-semitic because you called it the jewish lobby instead of the israel lobby. it's playing with words. i mean, i know -- listen, i know jews in nebraska where hagel was a senator. they never got any sense that, you know, of any kind of anti-semitism. in terms of his strategic wisdom, you know, for the last three years he's been president obama's, he's been the chair of the president's intelligence advisory board. and i've talked with some people who have sat at meetings with him, and, you know, they get access to all the intelligence information that the cia director and other people get. you know, i've been told, and these are people who have no, no, you know, they have no dog in this fight whatsoever. they say, well, you know, he discussed the issues in a very serious way, he asked good questions. there didn't seem to be any ideological tilt. i mean, this was including questions about iran's nuclear program. you know, he handled it very professionally. now, i must say, i mean, you
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know, he supposedly rehearsed for these hearings x the quality of his answers when he came under questioning from mccain were, it was kind of pathetic. but i don't know. i'm pretty sure that the votes are all lined up for him to win. but, you know, you never know about these things. >> thank you for your talk. can you tell me what you think of the role of the military if this low intensity conflict should be? in other words, where's the -- what's the role of the tate department? there's no doubt that the army was very, very effective in reducing the enemy. but then it seems that they got a job of social, political and economic restructure which i'm not sure is the military's role. and, by the way, i think they learned it, they learned it fast, and they did it well. but where was a state department and all the, you know, department of agriculture and all these other economic and
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political arms that we have in these kind of situations? >> well, here's the problem, and, you know, there were some state department and aid people out in what they called provisional reconstruction teams in iraq and afghanistan. but they needed to be attached to a military brigade or a military battalion for security. you know, they were doing this while shooting was going on. it wasn't like, you know, postwar germany where, essentially, there really was a surrender. the war was over, and these massive, you know, occupation teams that were just reconstruction people came in. there was still fighting going on. they needed security. the other thing, and this has been realized by some of these counterinsurgency people slowly, is that, you know, the united states government is not set up like a colonial government. when the british had their colonies, when the french had their colonies, they really
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controlled the place. and every department that was related -- like the british managing india, you know, there was a whole india bureaucracy. there was a security branch, economics, political, the whole -- all the lines of operation. and they were all into india. they knew india, they'd been there for decades. we don't have anything like that. you know, we -- our justice department and fbi and treasury department, commerce department, they all have overseas operations going on, but they don't want them to be related to the military. they don't want themselves to be seen as instruments of foreign policy. they're there the to dispense food aid. they're there to, you know, find, to do -- they're doing undercover operations to try to find drug lords. they don't want any part of a military operation. so it's finish there's a story -- there's a story, actually, it's not in my book, so bonus story.
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i'm told in one of these meetings sitting around talking about afghanistan that richard holbrooke who was the afghan/pakistan envoy starts going on about how we really need to get a lot of people from the department of agriculture out to afghanistan to, you know -- and robert gates who, you know, grew up in kansas says, richard, what makes you think the department of agriculture knows how to grow anything? so, you know, that's a good question. [laughter] so it's been a problem. petraeus was saying, yeah, where's the rest of the government? come on, come on behind me. but it's just not set up that way. thai not set up -- they're not set up that way. they're not trained to do that. whether they should or not, that's another matter, but they've never been trained to do that. >> appreciate you coming to louisville, and i'm really excited about reading your book now. >> thank you. >> i'm a retired artillery officer and a couple years younger than petraeus, so i grew
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up during the cold war, stationed in germany defending the gap, all that kind of stuff. so this is quite a culture shock for guys of my age. >> yeah. >> but my question is around the insurgency, smaller forces, special forces and all that and how that, if it does, meshes with the drones that we're using which we seem to really be proliferating. and, also, your take on the ethical concerns of using drones instead of capturing people, trying them, we're just blowing them e away and what you think about that. >> well, on your first question, i mean, one thing that mcchrystal did when he was commander of the joint special unified force of that. he became commander, and he's saying, well, wait, i have all these powers, but i can't do anything. so he reached out and formed links with all the different intelligence agencies and with the conventional forces. so when a guy went out on an operation, he had access to every kind of intelligence that
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there was. and he really did revolutionize that apparatus. so it's very integrated, it's very linked. as for the ethics, i mean, you know, that could be the subject of a whole other talk. i would just say three things. one, in terms of casualties, you know, comparing a drone finish you know, if somebody fired a drone and was aiming at me, it probably wouldn't land much farther than that man in the front row away from me. i mean, they really are that accurate. in the old days, you know, to get me you'd pretty much have to bomb all of louisville, you know, to get enough bombs to have a good chance of -- and so, you know, which one is the most inhumane? but it's true, look, we're doing these things in places where we're not at war. okay? i think in some instances if you know, okay, there is this guy,
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okay, there's this guy, there he is, we know he's there, he's been doing x, y and z, he's part of the war against us, bam. i think in some cases that's okay. and, in fact, there was a story a while back, remember, that making a big fuss that obama was approving these kill lists. i actually don't think that's bad. who do you want approving these kill lists, the politically responsible president of the united states or the director of the cia that you might never have heard of? i think it's not -- but where i really don't like it at all, they have these things called, oh, god, i forget the name of it, but it's basically if somebody matches a profile of the kind of bad guy that you're looking for and, you know, there are ten criteria, and this guy meets nine of them so let's drop it, you know, i don't like that at all. mainly because you're going to be wrong a fair amount of the time, and as these
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counterinsurgency guys knew, you know, that's not just bad, but it's counterproductive. it can -- but, you know, i think we're about to have a very major debate over this thing. because, as i say, it's going to be taken out of the hands of the cia, put back in the military where it can be discussed more openly. and there are a lot of commanders in the military especially the legal, guys in the jags who just have serious problems with this. okay, i mean, you know, okay, we've kind of decided that torture isn't a good idea, but is just killing the guy? is that, is that better? is that worse? is it the same? and also the other problem i have with it, and i alluded to this a little bit at the end of the talk, it just makes things a little too easy. and it, it provides an excuse for not digging into the complexities of the situation that should really be analyzed.
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you know, nobody has time to analyze things. so here's a bad guy, he's causing a lot of problems. we can kill him in a minute, let's do it. whether that's addressing the real problem solving the real crisis, it's an evasion. it's using technology. sometimes used well it can be a useful tool, but i think more often than not it's used as an evasion. >> thank you. the united states has not won a war since 1945. this combat looks an awful lot like vietnam. there's no difference between the republicans and the democrats except ron paul. i'm wondering, are we ever going to see the united states completely pull out of the mideast? it's leading some people to think that we might be there for oil or minerals or even the heroin trade, for that matter.
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and -- >> heroin trade? >> so i'm really concerned about this. >> well, no, you raise a good point. world war ii is, actually, in the annals of military history since and going way back, world war ii is kind of an anomaly. there really haven't been a lot of wars in history that lead to the total surrender of the enemy. most wars, and particularly the kinds of wars that we're getting involved in now, you know, rightly or wrongly end with some kind of negotiation or some kind of division of power or some new power arrangement between, you know, some kind of coalition. and so it is uncomfortable because the war that we're all, that we all look back upon as the good war is one where there was of a surrender ceremony on the uss missouri or where emperor her here toe, the
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emperor of ya pan gets on the radio and says i surrender. so when you haven't won a war since then, well, it depends what you mean. i don't know. i can think of some small wars that we won. but, you know, again, that goes back to the old saying, you know, "small wars." it's not small to the people fighting it. it's not small to the people who live there. in terms of whether we're going to be if middle east -- to be in the middle east, i mean, obama has done a fairly good job of pulling out a lot of troops in the middle east. i think we -- i cannot foresee a time when the united states or any large power that depends for a good part of its industrial society on petroleum would just decide to bug out, just leave it all to chance. there are interests. and as you say, ron paul, if you want to go the complete
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isolationist stance, i just don't see that happening. so i think we're stuck there. i mean, again, we're not fighting there anymore unless you consider afghanistan part of the middle east, and i don't think we're there for the heroin trade, i really don't. i mean, in vietnam there was, you know, there was some freelancing going on with heroin. but look, it's -- a superpower in a complicated world gets into messes. and let me just wrap this up very quickly that the paradox of winning the cold war was that even that wasn't an absolute win because american power had been, we'd woven this complex power based on the rules of the cold war. the cold war, besides being a horrendous situation, was, it was a system of international politics. it was a system of international order. and our power was based in part
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on the fact that while there were a lot of people, a lot of countries that might not have exactly the same interests we do, they would go our way more often than not because they didn't like the alternative. well, okay. of in 199 -- okay, well, in 1991 the alternative blows up, there is no more soviet union. there is no superpower. we might be the most mighty, but we're the most mighty for the kinds of conflicts that we're, the wars that we are fighting or proxy wars that we are planning to fight or fighting during the cold war. that's not what's going on now. we have much less leverage over what goes on in much of the world than we did during the cold war. because the fulcrum of that leverage doesn't apply to the power balances and power grabs that are going on now. so it's a very confusing world. it's a very confused world. and, you know, until the next
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george cannon or something comes along, it's going to be a ad hoc sort of policy that any president is going to -- i don't know what the grand, if somebody came up with a grand strategy that would, you know, take into account everything going on in the world and how to maximize our influence within it, i don't know what that would be, and i don't know anybody who knows what that would be. >> well, on such certainty -- [laughter] we need another question. we need another question. >> hi, sir. lieutenant -- luther, u.s. army. with the fiscal cliff looming and the strategic pivot to the pacific, do you think it's wise to significantly cut our ground forces considering insurgency, counterinsurgency is incredibly manpower intensive, a la that's why we need the surge. we're already cutting significantly, we're looking at
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80,000 in the army, some in the marine corps, and if we go over the fiscal cliff, some have suggested outside of government an additional 25% to both the army and the marine corps. do you think that is wise? and the second part to this question is do you think we need a more robust advisory capability in the army and the marines beyond what special forces does by, with and through in their counterinsurgency approaches? >> okay. that's a good question. first, i think there are things that you could cut in the defense budget that wouldn't have much effect. example, we're spending $20 billion a year modernizing and maintaining the nuclear weapons force. you know, i think you could cut that significantly, and it wouldn't matter. you have certain big weapons like the f-35 stealth aircraft which was designed as a less expensive version of the f-22. the f-22 was killed, the f-35 is getting to be almost as expensive as the f-22 was.
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we seem to do very well in what few air-to-air duels there are these days with nonstealth aircraft. i think we could probably stop that program without too much difficulty. but you raise an interesting question about your own service, the army. the army is facing kind of an existential crisis right now. what's the mission? you know, major combat operations? i don't see, you know, russia invading western europe. there's a war with china, i don't see it being a ground war, at least not with us involved. president obama and secretary panetta ask the joint chiefs of -- and the joint chiefs of staff in their strategy review of a year ago which is the most attention to that was the pivot from europe to the pacific, one thing in that review that wasn't so well noted was the idea that it's kind of an end ofation building. he said the army and the marines shall not size its forces for
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large-scale, prolonged stability operations which translated to english is like no more iraqs and afghanistans. not just no more iraqs or afghanistans, but when you do your scenarios, when you crank your calculations to figure out how many troops you need, this is not even the kind of scenario that should enter into the calculation. and as you say, the small stuff is mainly special forces. some people, including john gnawing l, as you well know, have proposed setting up a special advise and assist, you know, soldiers who would be specialists in being advisers to overseas armies. and i think that is what a lot of the army is doing now. but they're kind of in a pickle. they don't know, they don't know what to do. as you might know, you know, there's something out in western california in the desert called the national training center. during the cold war there were these massive mock tank battles where, you know, team blue and
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team red would go at each other in tank maneuvers. when iraq and afghanistan happened, they erected these mock villages, and they hired exiles to play -- you know, like somebody would be the mayor, somebody would be an ip sur gent, you know, and they played these creative games. those are being dishasn't -- dismantled. but right now we're training for a little bit of everything. the national training center, they're starting to do tank maneuvers again for the first time in ten years. they're firing artillery shells. nobody's done this in ages. they're also doing humanitarian assistance, they're doing a little bit of things with the villages. they don't know what to train for, is so they're kind of training for everything. and as you also well know, the most, the best way to cut money cheaply, the best way to cut a budget quickly is by cutting manpower because say you want to cut an aircraft carrier.
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well, you know, it's going to take five years to build that aircraft carrier. in the first year, you're only spending about 5% of the budget. so you think you're cutting $5 billion, well, this year really, no, you're only cutting a couple hundred million. but you get rid of a guy who's eating up $100,000 in one way or another, you've just saved yourself $100,000. so i think you will see more reduction -- now, how do i think about this? um, i don't know. i've talked about this kind of thing with some of the people whose names you'd recognize who have four stars on their up end lets. it's hard to come up even with the arguments on why things should change. but i think that probably is -- they are going to take the easy way out on this. >> one last question over here. >> uh-huh in. >> last one: better be a good one. >> let's do it.
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>> my name's david, i'm a retired special forces officer. >> oh, okay. >> our job in iraq was to -- we were combat advisers to an iraqi brigade in downtown tikrit, so i lived with the iraqi army for a year. i felt during that time -- >> when was this? when were you there? >> we entered in the summer of 2007. >> okay. >> and left in the summer of 2008. >> okay. >> so right at the height of -- >> yeah. >> -- violence and also the beginning of the sons of iraq program which we helped implement. i felt that when al-qaeda came in, they were very popular, they had a very popular ideology. let's kick out the invaders, be better muslims, and the iraqis said, yes, let's do that. but then they switched their targeting once u.s., once coalition forces became better armored, better tactics. they were harder to hit, they were harder to kill, and then al-qaeda started to shift targeting towards those who collaborated with us, is so the iraqi security forces, the police, the iraqi army.
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and i felt that that was, um, in large part the beginning of the end for al-qaeda in iraq. can you comment on that? >> the beginning of the yen? >> the beginning of the end -- >> oh, yeah, it was. absolutely. what happened in anbar, as you well know, was some sunnis actually approached this guy, colonel sean mcfarlane, who is the commander of the first brigade there and said, listen, a lot of us are getting really upset with al-qaeda. i mean, held try to marry some people off to their daughters, they killed a couple of very beloved sheikhs, and they said, you know, we, we're willing to side with you if you can assure us that you're going to stay here for a while and really help us out. and that was the beginning. and, yeah, it's true, it's one thing, you know, as you, as this man said, al-qaeda had a good
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slogan going which was kill the infidel occupiers. and when they couldn't do that very well anymore and they started going after just the collaborators -- and these were in some cases beloved figures in the community -- you know, they were fighting a war of hearts and minds too. and they started losing hearts and minds rapidly. and at about the same time, the sunnis realized that in the burgeoning civil war with the shia they were losing that too. and so if they were going to survive at all, they needed to form alliance with what bing west called the stronger tribe, namely the american presence. and, yeah. so petraeus, i mean, he came in, he had kind of good fortune here. he came into the battle at a time when the kinds of strategies that he wanted to impose had a good opportunity of working. that's not to minimize him because other commanders wouldn't have recognized the situation for what it was. his predecessor, george casey, certainly didn't.
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so he -- there was luck, but the skillful strategist is one who recognizes the lucky environment and knows what to do with it. so, yeah, i'd agree with you completely. >> we're going to have to close this off. thank you. do you have any comments about petraeus coming pack to public life? >> he's not going to come back to public life, i mean, in the sense of political life? i think that in a few months you'll see him reemerging. you know, he's being advised, his career counselor the same guy who advised president clinton after his own little scrape -- [laughter] and he advises a lot of people. and he's very good at it. so i think you haven't seen the last of him, let's put it that way. >> thank you so much. >> thank you, thank you. [applause] >> watch it here on c-span2.
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>> good morning. stacy schiff was a wonderful biographer of, among others, cleopatra recently observed that biographers all have two lives. okay in back? can you hear? all right, good. in one realm, she says, the biographers are moving forward in ignorance. in the other you're moving backward with something resembling omniscience. now, what she doesn't say is that along with the illusion of something like only niche sense, the biographer usually has a lot of attitude on display. one can be worshipful, age graphic, fill yo pious, or one
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can be a debunker, an unmasker, a muckraker. one can defend or defame, expose, sensationalize, sentimentalize. one can be a myth buster or a myth maker. and not many generalizations can cover that whole spectrum. but march sell proost could do it and did when he wrote in early book before the big book, this is a little book, and there he says what intellect restores to us under the name of the past is not the past. in reality, in reality as soon as each hour of one's life has died, it embodies itself in some material object and remains captive forever unless we should happen on the object recognizing
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what lies within, call it by its name and so set it free. as soon as each hour of your life has died, it's embodied there in or under some material object. which explains why it's so hard to clean out the attic. [laughter] it's not stuff. it's your life. piece by piece. it also suggests the power of the central role of the senses in connecting things. you have to see it, know it's there to get it out. and the idea that writing can restore something to us, that biography is an act of recovery as brenda wineapple so wonderfully argues it is applicable both to biography and fiction. and here's another thing the two forms have in common. that's been splendidly put by phyllis rose who wrote in "parallel lives," we are
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desperate -- that's the word -- desperate for information about how other people live, because we want to know how to live ourselves. now, for me that's certainly true of biography, but it's also true of fiction. and i want to give just a single example. it's from dostoyevsky's book, and it is from a chapter called "rebellion" which comes right before "the grand inquisitor." ivan, the oldest brother, is giving -- [inaudible] his views on the christian idea that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, benevolent god and that things will all, ultimately, work out for the best. and ivan makes his argument through stories, and this is one of them. there was in those days a general of aristocratic connections, the owner of great estates. so our general settled on his
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property of 2,000 souls, lives in pomp and domineers over his poor neighbors as though they were dependents and buffoons. he has kennels of hundreds of hounds and nearly a hundred dog boys all mounted and in uniform. i'm sorry to put us all through this on a sunday morning, a beautiful day in key west. [laughter] i really am. [laughter] one day a serf boy, a little child of 8, threw a stone in play and hurt the paw of the general's favorite hound. why is my favorite dog lame? he is told that the boy threw a stone that hurt the dog's paw. so you did it. the general looked the child up and down. take him. he was taken, taken from his mother and kept shut up all night. early the next morning the general comes out on horseback with the hounds, his dependents,
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dog boys and huntsmen all mounted around him in full hunting parade. the servants are summoned for their edification, and in front of them all stands the mother of the child. the child is brought from the lockup. it's a room inmy, foggy autumn day. a capital day for hunting. the general orders the child to be undressed. the child is stripped naked. he shivers, numb with terror, not daring to cry. make him run, commands the general. run, run, shout the dog boys. the boy runs. at him, yells the general. and sicks the whole pack of hounds on the child. the hounds catch him and tear him to pieces before his mother's eyes. that's it. as i say, i'm sorry. [laughter] ivan goes on to exmain how there may, indeed, be an all-powerful, benevolent god and how there may, indeed, finally be a
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harmony which is achieved through human suffering but even if this is so -- and, of course, it is far from a sure thing -- ivan says he would personally reject any harmonious conclusion that required the suffering of that 8-year-old. ivan doesn't say there is no god. he just says that if his plan for us involves such horrors, he cannot and will not accept it, he hands back the ticket. i was 18 when i first read the this, and my younger brother, john -- 15 -- had just died a short three weeks after being diagnosed with acute leukemia. for me then ivan had it right. and this fictional encounter had more influence on my life than all the condolences and family support and help in the world. i loved reading the brothers, and i quickly found myself looking for help in everything i
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read. i liked anna karenina for the devil may care attitude toward paying bills. [laughter] ve on sky throws them all in a drawer, and he sits could be to pay -- sits down to pay them three times a year. i learned that the telephone company did not be appreciate in this point of view. [laughter] still, with or without the bill paying, his life was more vivid than mine and more vivid than the lives of my friends. and he seemed as real as any character in a biography. and so it was with book after book. i fell in love with small boats and sailing through swallows and amazons. my friends and i learned cool from holden caufield in "the catcher in the rye." and, of course, there was poetry. i had more than one teacher whose religion was elliot's four
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quartets. and we learned attitude from yates and from the greek anthology. we wanted to come proud, open-eyed and laughing to the tomb. and i loved this epitaph of an ancient greek sailor. it's in a greek anthology translation by dudley fitz, wonderful teacher. tomorrow the wind will have fallen, tomorrow i will be safe in harbor, tomorrow, i said, and death spoke in that little word. o stranger, this is the nemesis of the spoken word, bite back the daring tongue that would say tomorrow. we marveled at keats' ability to imagine what it would feel like to be a billiard ball rolling across a smooth table. we hungered for lives that had the emotional range of shakespeare's sonnets. and if we were going to be saved, we knew it would be by literature. and it was the french historian
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jules membership lay who put it best for me as i tried in my mid 40s to turn to biography, to life writing. history, he said -- and you could think that he meant to include biography and fiction -- history, he said, is not narrative, it is not analysis, it is resurrection. and i think this is some of what brenda wineapple has in mind by recovery. but how you do it is another and more complicated matter, and i will not try to get into that this morning. but bringing your subject back to life is a great and worthy goal. so if i may quickly wrap up, to ezra pound's excellent advice to make it new, i think we might also want to add and make it live again. thanks. [applause]
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we seem to be running a little early, so we have time for questions if -- >> not a question, but, um, a huge appreciation for you and what you just said. thank you very much. >> oh, roz, that's sweet. [applause] >> i think i'm scooping myself with a question i want to ask you in a session next weekend -- [laughter] but why not seize the moment. first time i ever saw you and met you was 2003 in boston, i think massachusetts historical society, on the 200th birthday,